When you and your partner join together and have children from previous relationships, you now have a blended family. A blended family now means you have stepchildren, and your children have stepsiblings.
As with any new situation, there is an adjustment period. While you may be looking at your new family with excitement, your children, and your new stepchildren, may be frustrated, confused, and maybe even a bit angry. Your children may have a tough time adjusting to their new lives and living with new people. Taking that into consideration should be your top priority if you want to make your blended family a success.
If you have a new blended family or will be entering one soon, here are some ideas of how to make it successful for everyone, as well as a look at how to help children of all ages adjust.
Challenges of a Blended Family
When you combine two families, there are going to be lifestyle differences as well as differences in parenting and discipline. These can become frustrating and challenging for everyone. If you can agree on consistent guidelines, it will make it easier.
Here are some challenges that typically arise in a blended family.
Inexperience & Insecurity
One step-parent may not have children of their own and may have never been a parent before. This can lead to insecurities within the family. This inexperience can be a challenge for everyone in the family.
There may be wide age gaps between children in a blended family as well as between parents. Respecting and adjusting to these age differences is going to take time.
Not Accepting a New Parent
If a child has gotten used to just having one parent around, it can be difficult to accept a new person in the parental role.
Changes in Family Traditions
Families are going to differ in the ways that they celebrate holidays. Traditions may change which can lead to children feeling resentful. This is going to take children some time to adjust to. By including them in the new traditions, they can feel more connected to the family unit.
Tips for Having a Successful Blended Family
Solid Marriage and Relationship
If your new marriage is not solid, building a new family is going to be more difficult than it needs to be. It’s difficult to start your new life with a blended family because you and your spouse don’t have time to adjust to just being the two of you. You automatically have children involved which can make it more stressful. This is why it’s more important than ever to have a solid marriage.
Some children may adjust easier than others. Having empathy for everyone’s feelings is key if you want your blended family to be a success. Children may be at different points in accepting their new family. All family members need to understand and be aware of this for a blended family to work.
Both kids and children should be respectful towards one another. Without respect, the blended family unit won’t succeed. Part of being respectful is also being civil towards one another. This goes a long way in any family.
You can’t expect everyone to adjust to their new situation right away. Have patience and allow everyone to have time to grow.
How to Help Children in a Blended Family Adjust
For a blended family to succeed, children need to learn to adjust. As you can imagine, younger children are going to have different needs than teenagers. Recognizing and respecting this is important if you want children to adjust properly.
Here are some typical ways you can expect children to adjust to a blended family.
Children under 10
- May be more accepting of a new adult
- May try to compete for their parent’s attention
- Have more daily needs that need to be met
Children age 10-14
- May have the most difficult time adjusting to their new stepfamily
- Need more time before accepting a new person in their lives
- May be more sensitive than younger children
Teenagers 15 and older
- May be less involved
- May want to separate from the family unit
- May not express their feelings that much
The way boys and girls react to stepfamilies is also going to be different. Boys tend to accept a new stepfather more quickly than girls as girls tend to be more uncomfortable with physical displays of affection from their stepfathers. Both boys and girls may shy away from physical closeness like hugs and kisses at first.
Remember, all kids adjust differently and at their own paces. Rushing a child or pushing too hard can backfire and have severe consequences.
Making Your Blended Family Stronger
If you want your blended family to succeed and become stronger, there are several things you can do to help the process along the way.
Keep All Parents Involved
Just because you have a new spouse doesn’t mean that your child forgets about their other biological parent. You want to keep all parents involved in your child’s life.
Discuss and establish what the role of the step-parent will be. Everyone needs to be on the same page and understand the boundaries. It’s also helpful to have a list of family rules. This clearly states what is and is not acceptable.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
When the lines of communication are open, everyone understands what is expected of them and what is going on. Be open with your children and your spouse about expectations, rules, and everything else that involves the family. When people start hiding things or not expressing emotions, problems can arise.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to making your blended family a success, you want to recognize the challenges. Understand that children of all ages will react differently. Being sensitive to their needs will help your blended family thrive.
You also want to be sure to keep all parents involved in the children’s lives as well as keep the lines of communication open. By establishing boundaries and clearly stating rules, your blended family can succeed.